Thursday, January 28, 2010

Formal-ISM Kills

It is true that formalism is a danger to our very salvation. When we grow so used to a routine that we cease to think at all or only think about how sleek and plumed we have grown, our very existence as the people of God is at risk.

And while this sort of danger is clearly seen over centuries or even generations, the danger can become reality much quicker than that.

Even in your own homes, you have realized how quickly a practice can become a regular routine. The prayer before dinner, the good night hug, the departing farewell: all of these are good and meant for good. But when they grow stale and lifeless, the very blessing of them begins to mock us. We often continue on with the outside of the thing when the inside, the heart and soul, has already grown hollow and cold. The thing, the hug, the kiss, even the prayer may eventually begin to disgust us as it points out our own failure or even hypocrisy.

Formalism in the church does much the same thing. We have all these wonderful traditions, full of meaning and meant to bless us. They do so as long as we are paying attention, as long we actively participate, as long as our hearts are warm and our minds are engaged.

But let hold fast to the outside of the thing, only, and the slow death begins to set in. It is a slow death, so we may not notice it until there is no chance of resuscitation. Where are you? Are you holding on to the center of our liturgy? To Christ, Himself? Is the service real and lively and life producing? Or do you know these dance steps and they are starting to bore you and you are beginning to wander in mind and heart? This day, renew yourself in Christ’s Spirit. Turn to Him once again and participate in this service, in your family, in your walk as one who is alive from the dead.

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